Saturday, January 28, 2023

Norwegian Escape - 28 January 2023 - Cruise Review

Norwegian Escape  -  28 January 2023  -  Cruise Review
 

Just the Facts:

Ship: Norwegian Escape is a 165,000-ton Breakaway+ class ship launched in 2015 with a guest capacity of 4200-5000.  

Ports: Port Canaveral,  Puerto Plata,  St. Thomas,  Tortola,  Great Stirrup Cay


This will be my first cruise on the Norwegian Escape, my 8th cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line, and my 196th cruise overall. I’m cruising as a solo. 


Saturday / February 28th, 2023 / Embarkation / Day 1 

I finished packing early Saturday morning and I was off on my drive to Port Canaveral at about 8:20 am. I did the direct route: Hwy 52 to I-75 north, then east on Hwy 50 to the FL Turnpike, then Hwy 528 to the Beachline Expressway to the port and Atlantic beaches. I arrived at Park-N-Cruise cruise parking at about 10:30 am when they opened for departure parking. A nice line already waiting but they are efficient and I was soon on my way. Park-N-Cruise is my overall favorite of all the parking locations and ports in Florida. We were soon at Port Canaveral, busy with six mega ships in port today. A bit of a line to enter NCLs terminal 10 and security, but once inside it went quickly…I was on the ship at about noon. I dropped off my bag at the cabin and went up to the Garden Cafe on deck 16 for a Buffet lunch. I was busy, but a lot of Food Stations for guests, I’ll learn about them soon. Today I had Fresh Shrimp, French Fries, a Turkey cutlet, a Banger Sausage, and Sauerkraut. It was very good. For dessert a Peach Cobbler. I then returned to the cabin to unpack and set up. I have one of the unique Studio Cabins designed for Solo guests. Small with many built-in features. At about 3:30 I went down to the Theater for Muster Drill…yes NCL has just restarted the traditional meet-up before sailing away. You sit in the theater and listen to the safety spiel and they show you how to wear your life jacket. The main problem is that when it’s over you have 5000 guests trying to get back to cabins all at the same time. A mess indeed. We soon sailed away and I had a relaxing short time in my Studio. The WiFi works very well (so far) and I’m learning to use the new, to me, NCL App. At about 6:00 pm I went to the Atrium Bar for two Cosmopolitans. Guests were certainly taking advantage of the inclusive drink program, every bar I passed today has been packed. But guests do tend to party hard on the first day. I had 6:30 Reservations at Sabor the smaller of the two MDRs (Main Dining Rooms). It was busy, but I scored a nice two-top at a window. Dinner was very good, I ordered: Crab & Cream Cheese Wontons, A Baby Spinach Salad (excellent), the Beef Sirloin Medallions with Steak Fries & Broccoli entree, and a Fruit Plate for dessert. The table was very nice with Starched linens, Bread Basket, and good Service including Bar Service. I did a walkabout after dinner. The public areas and even the passageways are smaller which makes the flow seem crowded. A lot to explore but I retired early, I had a long granddaughter day on Friday and a lot of walking today. It was a very nice embarkation day on the Norwegian Escape.
 
Sunday / January 29th, 2023 / Day at Sea / Day 2 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. Although the cabin is designed for solos only the bed is full-size with two very large pillows…nice. I woke early and watched the sunrise from the forward camera…it will be a partly cloudy, but beautiful day. I went for breakfast in the Sabor MDR. I ordered: a Bloody Mary, Fruit Bowl, and Eggs Benedict with sides of Bacon & Hash Browns. It was good as was the company at a shared table. I did a walkabout on the way back to the cabin and I was amazed that the Bars were already packed with guests. Interesting. At about 11:15 am I did my ship tour starting at the upper decks and working down. The pool decks and sun decks were packed. Decent entertainment on the pool deck stage too. I found one secretive area, port outside on deck 8. It’s the outdoor dining area for several restaurants so unused in the daytime…one bar was open too. I enjoyed another Bloody Mary, then a Pina Colada before heading to the Garden Cafe for lunch at 1:15 pm…I had a Hamburger & French Fries. It was very good and my friends know how particular I am with burgers. I did happen to get a fresh off-the-grill meat paddy and you build your own so it was made with TLC. Sweet relish and no dill available but other items (onions, lettuce) were good. The Fries were hot and fresh as well. Very pleased. Cabin time for a nice nap this afternoon and to watch the NFC Championship football game on the cabin TV.  This evening I went to the Atrium for Cocktails and to watch the Golden Octaves musical group, it was nice. I had another great dinner tonight again in the Sabor MDR.  Tonight I ordered: Scotch Beef Barley Soup, a Cobb Salad, and the Pepper Crusted Roast Beef entree with Polenta & Spinach.  It was an enjoyable evening, but I retired to the cabin in time for the exciting final quarter of the AFC Championship football game.  It will be Philadelphia Eagles vs. Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl.  It was a very nice first sea day on the Norwegian Escape.

Monday / January 30th / Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic / Day 3 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. We were docked when I woke up this morning. We did turn back our clocks overnight and the MDR hours changed from 7:00 - 9:00 on port days, but I did manage to get to Sabor before it closed. I did have a nice 4-top table with tablecloth (I’m poking fun at Carnival) and very good service. I had my Texas Country breakfast: three Eggs sunny side up, Bacon, Ham, Hash Brown Potatoes, Fruit Plate, Danish (2), Tomato juice, and Hot Milk. It was excellent. The only negative was a fat old man wearing a sleeveless shirt in the formal dining room…no one wants to see your hairy armpits in the morning (another Carnival slam). After checking on the usual Monday morning business on the internet I went ashore at about 10:30 am. The new Taíno Bay Cruise Port facility is very nice. It is an attraction and destination in itself. I planned on walking the old town today so did the hardest first going to Fortaleza San Felipe a 15th-century Spanish fort with a long and colorful history. It is now a museum located at the entry to the harbor and now a nice public park and observation area. Only a $2 admission. I then walked over to El Faro de Puerto Plata, the old lighthouse. Next, I stopped at the unique Puerto Welcome Sign located between the park, the shore, and the Old Town for a photograph. I then walked up to the main Plaza and enjoyed watching the tourist groups pass by and seeing some old friends from a previous visit. I was glad I touring was on my own today. A visit to St. Philip the Apostle Cathedral to reflect as I like to do in these old cities. I made my way to Pink Street, an attraction for Tourists but unique so worth the visit. There I stopped at Pachuche a Boutique Wine Bar (owned by a Cigar Company) for a nice rest and enjoy two local Presidente beers. Good Wifi and a sea breeze as well. I began my return walk passing by Umbrella Street and many Cigar shops, some touristy, but other actual production facilities. It was an amazingly interesting day in the old town. Once onboard I went directly to the Garden Cafe before it closed, I had a great bowl of Pho from the Noodle Station, a small Hamburger, and several Diet Cokes. Finally time for a refreshing shower in the cabin, and I mean it is in your Studio Cabin, not a separate bathroom. I took time to update the blog and have a nap. I went to the Garden Cafe for a wee dinner, a mixed salad with a Chicken Breast I sliced for the salad and a Pork cutlet with Mashed Potatoes. Not busy when I went at about 7:30 pm. I didn’t want cocktails so I went to The District Brew House which is also the defacto Piano Bar. The good news is that the beer is great, but the bad is the Piano player…really bad. I had a new (to me) beer on draught: Funky Buddha Floridian…it was great I had another. At the very last moment I got into the 9:30 show in the Theater and scored a seat in row 6 center…the Karma is good. This is the show every lady on the ship has been raving about, The Choir of Man. It was a great show, I love this musical concept, even two acapella numbers. Many ladies sitting down low where I was sitting had to be regulars and one would think we were at Chippendales. They loved it. A very long and busy day for this old guy…it was a great port day and ship day on the Norwegian Escape.
 
Tuesday / January 31st / St. Thomas, USVI / Day 4 
Calm seas overnight and I slept well. We have a late arrival so a good day for sleeping late and having a relaxing morning. I got some Banana Bread this morning from the Studio Lounge next door for an early snack. Then did some online work while watching us sail into St. Thomas on the forward camera. I went up to the Garden Cafe at noon as planned but debark was running late so it was packed with guests…I did get some great Bacon as breakfast was still out. They finally opened the gangway at about 12:20 and it cleared out and they brought out fresh food for guests. I had a Hamburger, as it was hot and my first one was so good earlier in the week. I had a prepaid ticket from NCL for the Gondola up to Paradise Point so that was my plan for the day. We were the last ship in so at the outer pier and a long walk to the Gondola Station but I had lots of time. I was at the top of Paradise Point at about 2:00 pm and I had a nice table in the shade with a nice view. I enjoyed two of their special Painkillers and enjoyed the view. The weather was very nice with a cool breeze so it was nice. I returned to the ship at about 4:00ish. I refreshed and had a nice nap. At about 7:00 I went to the District Brew House for two of the Funky Buddha Floridian beers. Nice. I had an 8:00 reservation at Savor and was given a nice table at the window with something to actually see with another cruise ship on our port side. Tonight I ordered the Minestrone Soup, Roasted Beet Salad (excellent), and two entrees: Whole Roasted Sirloin with Baked Potato and the BBQ Mixed Grill. I was curious about the BBQ and correct that not up to standards, but the Steak was very good. For dessert, I had the Bananas Foster. After dinner, I wanted to see Howl at the Moon in the Headliners Comedy club as I met one of the entertainers, but the room was really packed. From what I could see it looked like a lot of fun with dueling piano bar + drums set up. This show alternates each night with the Comedians in this venue. I retired to the cabin and watched my first movie of the cruise, a Star Wars feature. It was a good day in St. Thomas and on the Norwegian Escape. 
 
Wednesday  /  February 1st  /  Tortola, BVI  /  Day 5 
Smooth seas overnight and we were docked well before I got out of bed this morning. I was just here two weeks ago so no rush to get off the ship. I did some online work before going up to Garden Cafe. Opposite of yesterday with many guests off the ship and few at the buffet. I had made to order 3-Eggs over easy, Bacon, White Toast, Hash Browns, Orange Juice, and Milk. It was very good. I discovered on the message board in the elevator that the back on board is at 12:30…well no need to go ashore. I got a good table outside on deck 8 with a great starboard side view. And the nearby bar opened at noon. I brought my laptop so I was content. After sailing away I enjoyed watching us sail through the Little Sisters chain of islands of BVI, very scenic and had a great cool ocean breeze. I upgraded my two Diet Cokes to two Frozen Mango cocktails…even nicer. I had cabin time in the afternoon and monitored the market for the Fed announcement. A good day in the market. I had not been to the Sugarcane Mojito Bar yet so went there at about 6:45 pm.  I had two hours before dinner so I decided to try all six of the featured Mojitos on the menu. The bartenders were very cooperative and it became a fun event for me. I sampled them all plus an extra shooter the bartenders offered during the process. IMHO the Pineapple Coconut and Raspberry Guava mojitos were very good, and the Bacardi and Coco were good, but the Jalapeño Cucumber and Spicy Passion ones not so much. One can’t go wrong with the basic Mojito recipe either. I had a late reservation for dinner tonight in the Manhattan MDR. It’s the larger MDR with a band and even a dance floor. Not the best option for a solo diner, but I wanted to see the venue. The food and service were good, I ordered: the Smoked Mozzarella Ravioli, and two entrees: Pan-seared Pacific Hake Fillet and Bacon-wrapped Cajan-spiced Shrimp. Both entrees were large portions and filling but the small ravioli appetizer was the best. I did a small walkabout of the ship before retiring to the cabin. It was a relaxing day on the Norwegian Escape.
 
Thursday / February 2nd / Day at Sea / Day 6 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept fair, but late. I had a Banana for breakfast and did online work until noon when I went up to the Garden Cafe. I had a small amount of sliced Pork from the Carving Station, Chicken Milanese, Red Potatoes, & Meat Balls with Tomato sauce. In lieu of dessert, I had a small Asian plate of Kung Pao Chicken and Noodles. All good. After lunch, I went to deck 8 outside and luckily scored a table to enjoy the weather and sea breeze while surfing the Internet. I stayed outside all day until the market closed and I had run out of power on the laptop. A server kept me in Diet Coke all day so very nice. At about 6:15 pm I went to the Sugarcane Mojito Bar for the two mojitos I thought best, I can confirm that the Pineapple-Coconut was my favorite. I had my big premium dining experience tonight, I choose the Teppanyaki experience. Typical set up with nine guests around the Teppanyaki grill and a Chef who prepares your food and entertains. We had our two starters, Soup and Salad, while the Chef cooked the Fried Rice. I ordered a Steak & Scallop combination but ended up with three portions that included Shrimp. It was a huge meal and very good…best meal of the cruise and individually one of the best of my cruise history. I had two Lycée cocktails and the Assorted Fruit for dessert. Tonight was my actual reservation for the production show The Choir of Men. I attended as I really enjoyed it on Monday night. I was early tonight and caught the unique opening that included audience members coming on stage for a beer. Another great performance. I did skip the encore so that I could avoid the mass exodus of the previous Monday, it’s become harder for me to walk up flights of stairs at the end of a day. I did retire to the cabin and updated this blog. It was a great day with a great meal on the Norwegian Escape. 
 
Friday / February 3rd / Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas  / Day 7 
Slight seas overnight and I slept very well. I was up early and watched us arrive at Great Stirrup Cay as I ate breakfast in Sabor. My final breakfast so I wanted it to be a good one: Fruit plate, three fried Eggs sunnyside-up, Bacon, Ham, Hash Browns, Tomato Juice, Toast, and hot Milk. It looks like it will be a good day for tendering so Guests should be happy. I had business to do today but I took a break to ride the tender over to Great Stirrup Cay just to get some sea air and a photo (left) of the ship…that was successful. I got off the tender and walked over to the next one departing…that process took an hour though. Upon return, I had a Hamburger for lunch, then finished up my business. The short nap was good too. No events or even alcohol for me today I want to get an early clean start in the morning. I did sit out on deck 8 again at sail away. It’s getting cooler. Tonight I had my final dinner at Sabor, my go-to place for sit-down dining, but first my aperitifs at Mixers. Tonight I ordered: the Scallops in sauce, Smoked Mozzarella Ravioli, Rolled Beef Sirloin, Veal Bratwurst, and Apple Cobbler with Ice Creme. A final walkabout before returning to the cabin to start packing. Unfortunately, I feel a bug coming on so retired early. It was an easy final day on board the Norwegian Escape. BTW— I have been pronouncing the name of the ship as Es-cop-A…people smile (my goal) so they like it or they think I’m a bit touched. A bit of both is true.
 
Saturday / February 4th / Debarkation Day / Port Canaveral, FL
Rocky seas on our last night. I woke early to finish packing.  At about 7:15 am i went down to deck and joined the line for self debark.  They started about the time I got down there.  It was Facial recognition at Customs so it went well, I was soon on the Shuttle bus and left the lot at about 8:00 am…fairly smooth process.  I stopped and saw family in Orlando before getting home before 3:00 pm.

Ship
The ship is huge, but the lack of a larger central atrium and narrow corridors in the public areas makes the ship crowed and difficult to navigate from one area to another.  The passageways on passenger decks are even narrower making it difficult to pass guests let alone dodge cleaning carts.  Only two sets of elevator banks, but ten elevators in each bank. Art and decor is only fair IMHO although some theme areas are cleverly done.

 Cabins
New to me are the Studio cabins for solo guests. The Studio cabins have their own area and a lounge. I had cabin 11501 near the lounge and private entry so good location.  The bed is full size, the storage along one wall that includes your TV, shelving, and a small sink A Shower unit in the corner. The toilet is in a separate space across from shower.  The unique mood lighting system is interesting.  Small but fine for a solo.

Crew
All are well trained and efficient. Most of the crew are from the Philippines and there seem to be a lot of crew for the passenger ratio.  Friendly and nice.

Dining / Food / Bars / Entertainment

Fantastic to have Tablecloths in the MDRs. I love it.  The Bars are almost always packed with guests…makes since since almost all passengers have a drink package as a part of the NCL booking system.  The bartenders are quick, drinks are good and the passengers were very courteous.

Highlights of the Cruise
The Choir of Men
Teppanyaki Dinner
Puerto Plata Day
Sabor Main Dining Room
St. Thomas Day

 

 
 



Saturday, January 7, 2023

Celebrity Apex Cruise Review - B2B - January 7 & 14, 2023

Celebrity Apex Cruise Review - January 7&14, 2023

Just the Facts:

ShipCelebrity Apex is the second vessel in the company's Edge class of ships @ 130,000 tons. Her debut sailing was from Athens on June 19, 2021, with a guest capacity of 2,900 passengers. 

Ports: Ft. Lauderdale FL - Key West FL - Belize City, Belize - Cozumel, Mexico - Georgetown, Grand Cayman - San Juan, Puerto Rico - Tortola, BVI - Basseterre, St. Kitts Is.

Captain: Nikolaos Christodoulakis


I’ve never sailed with Celebrity so the Apex will be my 1st and 2nd cruises on her and with the company. I’m cruising with my Dear Wife (DW) on a B2B (back2back). Although my first Celebrity cruises, these are my 194th and 195th cruises overall. We will sail for 14 consecutive nights on board the Celebrity Apex. 


Saturday / January 7th, 2022 Embarkation / Day 1 

I finished packing early Saturday morning and we were off on our drive to Ft. Lauderdale at about 7:20 am. We did the I-75 route crossing the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and south to Alligator Alley crossing the Everglades to the Atlantic coast. We drove into Fort Lauderdale to Park-N-Go cruise parking arriving at about 11:20 am. The parking lot was very busy but it was very well organized. They had our VW unloaded and bags in the shuttle before we had a chance to walk the few feet over to it. We were last on and immediately on our way to the ship. We checked one bag and I rolled on my duffle as usual for us. The initial ID entry was easy, the security check and bag scanning was easy, the Check-in station was easy, and we were on the ship at 11:40 am. No waiting anywhere.  Amazingly fast, 20 minutes from car to cabin. I’m very impressed. We dropped our bags in the cabin and went up to deck 14 and the Oceanview Cafe (buffet). They have a large variety of Food Stations…I like the system. I had a Mongolian Grill with beef, chicken, and a selection of vegetables. I also had a small portion of Roast beef from the Carving Station, it was excellent, and reminded me of the traditional roast beef on embarkation day from years ago. I enjoyed some Pistachio creme-filled pastries from the Bakery area…BTW, real Butter and a variety of fresh bread. We then went to our Muster Station on Deck 4 before returning to the cabin. Back on deck 7, we saw DW’s luggage so took it to cabin 7119. We have a nice balcony located forward on the port side…just back and below the ship’s Bridge. It’s a small balcony, but designed to be a part of the cabin, completely covered and like a lanai for the cabin…I really like it. Not as much storage as one would like but the cabin is of adequate size and well-decorated. I hung my clothes and set up for the cruise with time for rest and even a wee nap. We decided to go casual this evening eating at the Oceanview Cafe; however, they do not have near as many choices as they did for lunch. Truthfully every male I saw was wearing shorts and I suspect like I didn’t want to dress for dinner on the first night. My Chicken dish and beef stew were good. The Chocolate Fondue is not something I recall seeing on any other cruise ship. We stopped at the outdoor pool bar and enjoyed the interesting lighting on the ship before retiring to the cabin. Narayan our Cabin Steward did a turn down for us including fresh ice and chocolates on the pillows. We had movie time and rest this evening. It was an easy debarkation day on the Celebrity Apex.
 
Sunday / January 8th  /  Key West, FL  /  Day 2 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. The bed is huge, an oversize King with nice large pillows too. We were docked in Key West when I woke at 7:30 and it was a bright beautiful day. We had complimentary room service continental breakfast delivered at about 8:30. It was very good and we enjoyed it on our balcony. Good morning to catch up on online business since we have multiple WiFi options here in Key West. We left the cabin at about 10:45 am and headed off the ship. I’m very impressed with the Gangway Area, a very nice designated area with nice decor. We were docked right in town and we did the usual looking in the various shops and walked through the already-opened bars along Duval Street. We stopped for lunch at a place other hamburger aficionados recommend: Frita’s Cuban Burgers. It’s a small place and you eat al fresco similar to street food. Very good menu but I wanted the Standard Burger and the Yucca Fries. Both were good, the fries were very unique to me. Well worth the visit. We decided to go by DW’s grandfather's old house at 1015 Packer Street just a few blocks away. Someone has purchased his series of Shotgun houses in the Historic District and improved them since we last visited them about 15 years ago. About 20+ years ago we began investigating her Grandfather's supposed Key West murder. He built the houses in 1938/39 and was murdered there in 1940. We had the assistance of a local historical researcher, copies of the plats from the courthouse, period news articles, and most importantly an interview with a neighbor who lived in one of the houses. Very interesting situation, we think we know the true story. We have decided to address this again now that we live in Florida. We enjoy the architecture of old Key West and visiting. We ended up at the original Kermit's Key Lime Shoppe and sat in the courtyard enjoying a nice Key Lime Pie before returning to the ship and sail away. At about 5:00 pm we went down to the Martini Bar located on decks 3 & 4 mid-ship. It’s a very nice very large bar with live music and an adequate number of servers. This was our first experience with the Celebrity Elite guest-level beverage benefit. It is wonderful that Celebrity recognizes our guest status from Royal Caribbean cruises. We have a nice menu of complementary cocktails, wine, and soda to enjoy. Cosmopolitans were on the list so that was our drink for this evening. The drinks are served in smaller glasses, but you can order as many as you wish from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Very nice. We ended up staying the entire time, the music was great, but primarily because we had an assigned dining time of 8:15 pm. I assumed that you would be seated according to the day and time you request; however, it is done by seating times. Also, it can be done for the entire week so experienced Celebrity guests reserved various times on embarkation day. This doesn’t allow for no-shows or activities on port days. We did go to the Cyprus Restaurant earlier than assigned and were seated straight away. Dinner was very good, I ordered the Greek Saganaki and Escargot appetizers, the NY Strip Steak entree, and the Panna Cotta for dessert. We retired to the cabin after dinner. It was a great day walking in Key West and a learning day on the Celebrity Apex.

Monday, January 9th / Sea Day / Day 3 
Smooth seas overnight and we slept very well. A telephone call from room service woke us at about. 8:30 am. We ordered the same breakfast but it was too bright on the balcony this morning so had breakfast in bed. Very nice. I had a busy morning updating this blog and usual Monday morning business. Another discovery this morning is that you can use your mobile phone as your cabin key…another first for me. We did some exploring on the ship today, the Eden area is very unique and we ended up eating a small sandwich there from the grille area. We visited the casino to get some MatchPlay certificates that are a part of our elite benefits. Not sure if we will use them, but perhaps, I’d have preferred FreePlay chips. We went to Oceanview buffet for lunch, I had a very nice Mongolian Wok plate with more variety than the previous one on day one, and also a freshly made Creme Brûlée for dessert. We had cabin/balcony/movie time in the afternoon. I also worked on our plans for our big Asia/Europe/Red Sea adventure in April. It will be our biggest adventure to date. At about 5:15 we went to the Pool Bar to stock up on some Cokes for tonight's big game and I had time for two complementary Heineken beers. We had dinner from the Oceanview and dined outside on the aft deck watching our wake and the beautiful sunset. This has been one of my favorite contrarian things to do on a formal night…same here very few people dining on the outer deck. There was a much better selection of food tonight than on day one, I had Fish & Chips to go with my beer, but they had a lot of options. The Fish&Chip were very good and they had sliced lemons, tarter sauce, & malt vinegar available…very well done. We took some snacks back to the cabin for game night and of course, I mean the NCAA Football National Championship game. My team, the Oklahoma Sooners didn’t make it, but the DW’s team did make the finals, the TCU Horned Frogs. I’m sure I was the only guest wearing a purple TCU hat today. Georgia was heavily favored and won by even more than expected. I thank Celebrity for carrying ESPN and other popular television stations. It was a very nice sea day on the Celebrity Apex.

Tuesday, January 10th / Belize City, Belize / Day 4 

Calm seas overnight and I slept very well. It was an overcast morning so good for sleeping late, especially since we are not tendering into Belize City today. We did a nice walkabout and discovered the Roof Top Garden area (photo) on deck 15 aft. We enjoyed the live plants and got ideas for our new backyard garden at the Florida Villa…also has a nice view of the Caribbean. A great place to relax. We had a nice lunch in the Oceanview Cafe, I had some Roast Beef and a Chicken Breast from the Carving Station with Mashed Potatoes and Vegetables. Also, a made-to-order Pasta… you choose the pasta, sauces, and spices to add. I did Spaghetti, Marinara, Peppers & Onion. The bread has been wonderful on this ship. The Rice Pudding for dessert was wonderful. We had afternoon cabin time. At 5:00 we returned to deck 15 to the aft-facing bar next to the garden area for a Cocktail hour. A nice place for relaxing drinks and a view of the wake, it was interesting to watch us sail away in a unique zig-zag to avoid the coral reefs. We had dinner reservations at Cosmopolitan this evening. This is our second of the four Main Dining Rooms. The DW had a Caprese Salad and a unique Vegetarian entree, I ordered the Escargot, Butternut Squash Soup, and Manhattan Steak. All was excellent. The flavored kinds of butter with the bread are fantastic. We both had Carrot Cake for dessert…it was the best I have ever had. We were going to see the lighting in the Garden area (we will) but ended up retiring following our cocktails and fine meal. I fell asleep early, but was up in the night using faster WiFi and finally got return Air flights booked for our April Adventure. It was a very enjoyable stay-on-board day on the Celebrity Apex.
 
Wednesday  January 11th  /  Isla de Cozumel, Mexico  /  Day 5 
Smooth seas overnight and we were docked before I got out of bed this morning. We’re docked at the International Pier (RCL’s) and it’s a beautiful day. We went to the Ocean View for a light breakfast…nice selections including Hot Milk one of my favorites at breakfast. We debarked at about 10:00 and took a taxi into San Miguel. Woody’s Bar & Grill was already open so we claimed table 7 for the day. It was good seeing my favorite senior waiter David. We were also able to spend time with our good friend and owner Nelly, always great catching up with her. We enjoyed the good Mexican Coca-cola, then enjoyed some Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, and chips. In the afternoon I enjoyed several Bohemia Cerveza. Over the day, DW did some shopping, I had a haircut and bought a new Panama hat, we purchased some glass tumblers for use at the Florida Villa, and visited the old San Miguel church. It was nice to be in the old neighborhood. We had an early sail away so back on the ship by 3:30 pm. At about 5:00 we went to Eden for cocktails but decided to go to the Rooftop Garden to watch the beautiful sunset and enjoy a few beers (photo). Tonight we had dinner in the Oceanview Cafe, I had some pork shoulder from the Carving Station with potatoes, but the real treat was the Chicken Chow Mein, it was delicious. Best I have ever had. The evening buffet may not have as many choices as at lunch, but the quality of the food is amazing. After dinner, we attended our first production show: The Tree of Life. It was an amazing show encompassing Singers, Dancers, and Acrobats with great stage sets and LED back screens. It even snowed during the winter scene. We retired after the busy evening. It was a great port day in Cozumel and an evening on the Celebrity Apex.

Thursday, January 12th / Georgetown, Grand Cayman / Day 6 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well and late. We didn’t arrive and anchor off of Georgetown until about 10:00 am. We spent the morning at the main pool while most guests were off the ship. The water and pool are very nice. We went for lunch at Oceanview Cafe and it was Italian Day. Every popular Italian dish you can imagine was available. I had a sampler plate, a little Chicken Parmesan, Veal Parmesan, Assorted fried fish, Pastas, Spinach Manicotti, Eggplant Parmesan, Italian Bean Soup, and various Cannoli for dessert. The Spinach Manicotti was the best item. After lunch we did a walkabout then relaxed having Cabin and Balcony time…the water is a very pretty blue here. Later we went to Eden for cocktails, then to Normandie, the French Themed restaurant and 3rd of the 4 Main restaurants on the Apex. We had a wonderful meal, we split a Baked Brie Cheese (excellent), then I ordered the Escargot, Beef Tenderloin En Croute, and the Broiled Lobster Tail with Baked Alaska for dessert. All very good. Next, we saw the show 3-Divias in the Theater. It was three excellent vocalists doing covers of great female vocalists from the 60s - 90s. They do two different shows per cruise so we will enjoy their other show next week. After a short walkabout the ship we retired to watch a movie. It was a very good foodie day on the Celebrity Apex.

Friday, January 13th / Fun Day at Sea / Day 7 
Slight seas overnight and I slept very well. At about 9:00 am I went to Le Grand Bistro on deck 4 as they serve a light breakfast for Elite Guests. It takes a cruise to discover the various locations and benefits for Elites and the breakfast and dining options…then you can determine the best routine for you. We like the Room Service but this special breakfast option from 8-10:00 am is wonderful. You have 6 options including Salmon & Bagel, Pastry Basket, Light deli Meat, or Cheeses. I had a Fruit Plate, Danish, and Hot Milk. The hot milk was a nice surprise. At least we discovered it on the last day of this cruise. The DW went to the pool early as it’s a busy sea day and ended up doing her workout and the Pool exercises directed by Cruise Staff. We then went up to the Roof Top Garden to watch the new Tom Cruise Top Gun movie on the Big Screen. It was good and the weather was nice. We then went to the Oceanview Cafe for our big meal of the day as we are reserving the evening for entertainment. It was International Day for the Buffet and good selections. I had a custom Sandwich, Turkey & Roast Beef from the Carving Station, Broccoli, Mashed Potatoes, Cole Slaw, and Apple Crum for dessert. DW had a very unique dessert on a fresh crape with personally selected ingredients. It looked great too with the Carmel drizzle (most I had seen were Chocolate). It began raining while we were eating so the area was packed by 2:00 pm as guests left the outer pool deck. Some cabin time and enjoyed sitting on the balcony and watching the storm clouds and the island of Cuba on our port side. We went to the Sunset Bar on 15 aft for a beer & coke, then went to The Grill for French Fries and a Hot Dog as we aren’t doing a formal dinner tonight. We went early to the Theater for good seats for Rockumentary (photo) an excellent production show. The stage changes from venue to venue representing old concerts from the past, from Beatles at Shea Stadium to Woodstock to many others…very well done. The singers and dancers were great, the presentation was even better. After retiring to the cabin we watched a movie from the Movie List selections…we chose Bullet Train starring Brad Pitt…it was great. It was a very good final sea day for the last day of this cruise on the Celebrity Apex.
 

Saturday, January 14th / Embarkation Day / Day 8 of B2B

Smooth Seas overnight and I slept well. We woke early to finish packing and prepare for a cabin change before we have our B2B meeting this morning. I went up to the Ocean View and the weather is very cold and breezy. I returned through the interior passageway. For breakfast, I had three fresh Eggs cooked to order, Bacon, Hash Browns, assorted Fruit, and Milk. It was good. We actually heard the first in-cabin announcements this morning…announcing that it was time to leave the cabins. We really enjoyed not having all those announcements that other cruise lines do too often. We left our bags at the old cabin and went to our 9:00 am meet-up in the Eden Lounge area. At about 9:30 the 200 of us B2B guests were escorted down to a Customs waiting area where we received our new S&S cabin cards, then through Virtual Imaging border control, and then back onto the ship. It was a very easy process. We went to our new cabin and had no bags so we went to the previous cabin to retrieve them. The cabins were very close. Our new cabin has a full en suite balcony and it really is a lanai. The outer wall, towards the sea, is all glass and you can open the upper portion as you please just like a power window. You also have a power screen that you can use to block the sun if needed. It covers the entire window. You also have folding partition doors that separate the balcony/lanai from the cabin, they fold flat against the outer walls so as not to block the view. Amazing design. I’m glad we decided to change cabins on this cruise. We went to Ocean View Cafe for lunch, I have a Stir-fry (Mongolian grill) just as I did a week ago, it was even better as were the Pistachio Cremes. We did our muster drill then returned to the cabin to take advantage of fast WiFi for business then take an actual nap (remember no announcements to disturb you). We had a lazy afternoon but did more work on April’s big adventure. I had a nice solo dinner at the Oceanview Cafe: Beef & Onion entree, Mashed Potatoes, and Mixed Vegetables. I took a large plate of Bread Sticks and butter as a snack for the DW and Movie Night. It was a busy day for us as on the Celebrity Apex.
 

Sunday,  January 15th  /  Fun Day at Sea /  Day 9 of B2B 

Rolling seas overnight and I slept well. We met new friends for breakfast at Le Grand Bistro at 9:00 am. Something that I learned during this visit is that some specialty drinks are also included for Elite guests. DW had a Bellini and I had a Bloody Mary. We had the Ultimate Platter and a Fruit Platter. It was very good food as well as the company and service. Very nice venue too. Afterward, we joined a team for General Trivia in the Main Lounge, we did fairly well. We had cabin time then went for a late lunch at about 2:00 pm in the Oceanview Cafe. It was Caribbean Day with Peas & Rice, Jerk Chicken, Jerk Pork, Plantains, etc., but didn’t appeal to me…I had another Stir-Fry and a selection of desserts including Bread Pudding. We then watched a movie until our 5:00 pm Cocktail hour, we did the contrarian thing tonight and DW went swimming in the Solarium pool and I went to the pool bar. A few Heinekens were nice and we got some Coca-cola for later. DW was the only guest in the pool. We stayed an hour+ then returned to the cabin. We are enjoying our balcony cabin, it is very unique, the TV screen is large, and it’s well-decorated and cozy. We watched movies and researched our port stops beginning tomorrow. It was a very restful sea day onboard the Celebrity Apex.

Monday,  January 16th  /  San Juan, PR  /  Day 10 of B2B 
Slight rolling of seas just enough to rock one to sleep. I forgot to change our clocks with the time change and was late for our friend's meet-up at breakfast at Le Grand Bistro. I had a Bellini, a Fruit Plate, a Danish, and Hot Milk. We had the trivia team already together to go to the Grand Plaza for two games of Trivia. It was fun and the new friends are all charming. We have a late arrival at OSJ today so we enjoyed cabin time until lunch. I went to Oceanview Cafe as usual and enjoy two selections from the Carving Station: Turkey & Pork Shoulder. Also Mashed Potatoes and Mixed Vegetables with Apple Crumble and Boston Creme Pie for dessert. More cabin time until we approached the entry to San Juan harbor where we experience some high-rolling waves. We tilted twice guessing 12°+ it was exciting. After we were docked we headed ashore with friends at about 4:00ish for a walkabout OSJ. We walked the harbor then the Boulevard to the Fountain, then the sea walk below the walls to the old original Gate. From there we stopped at El Convento for a beer and soft drinks. The Cathedral closes daily at 4:00 pm so we went to La Taberna Lúpulo where the guys stayed for beers and the girls went shopping. We later met the girls in the park and went to the famous restaurant Barrachina for food and drinks. Then walked back to the ship arriving just before our 9:30 back on-board time. It was really nice walking about with the beautiful city lights and perfect weather. We retired and nursed our ailments from walking the cobblestoned streets and watched the Dallas/Tampa Bay NFL playoff game from bed. It was a great day in San Juan.

Tuesday,  January 17th  /  Tortola, BWI  /  Day 11 of B2B
Rolling seas as we left San Juan and overnight…perfect for sleeping. We were already docked at the Tortola Cruise Ship Pier when I woke. At about 9:00 am I went to the Ocean View Cafe for perhaps my best breakfast of the cruise. I had three Eggs made to order, fresh hot Toast, Bacon (lots), Hash Browns, Ham, and Hot Milk. After breakfast, we debarked the ship and walked into the pier area. As the only ship here and having been docked two hours it was not busy at all. We booked a two-hour island tour ($25 pp) in an open-air Jitney. We traveled over the mountains to the other side of the island stopping at several view locations. We got out at three: Stoutt's Lookout Bar, the Callwood Rum Distillery in a 400+-year-old building, and Myett's Restaurant in Cane Garden Bay to walk out on their nice beach. We shared a Painkiller cocktail and took in the sight of Jost Van Dyke Island just across the water. The views were beautiful as was the water. Upon arrival, back at the pier, we stopped at Myett’s by the Pier for two more Painkillers, Bottled water, and some French Fries. We also did some shopping scoring some white cotton items for our desert trip in April. After some rest, I went to the Elite-only event Music and Mixology. They had a flair bartender and a feature musical group serving three mini cocktails: a Manhattan, a Spicy Pimms, and a Mai Tai. It was a very nice half-hour event. We went to the Oceanview Cafe for dinner and joined friends. My food was good, I had Pork Leg from the Carving Station with Vegetables and a creamy Pasta casserole. A Trifle for dessert. We had a great conversation with our new friends before heading back to the cabin for a movie and bed. It was a fun day on Tortola and the Celebrity Apex.

 

Wednesday, January 18th / Saint Kitts, Leeward Islands / Day 12 of B2B 

Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. Guests were debarking by 8:30 am. At about 10:00 am the DW went to the Solarium to do pool exercise and I went to the Oceanview Cafe for another good breakfast. I went to the Poached Egg station where they prepared a great and freshly made Eggs Benedict for me. It was great as were the Bacon, Hash Brown Potatoes, and Hot Milk. I soon joined DW in the Solarium and I really enjoyed the Hot Tub, especially getting a water jet on my foot. Did wonders for the tendonitis, If back I’m going to consider one of those jetted walk-in tubs. We had cabin time the rest of the morning. At 1:00 pm we had a light lunch, I had a nice Turkey Sandwich. We soon afterward debarked the ship and walked down the long docking pier to the large pier arrival area. We looked at a few shops and watched a group of costumed dancers when the DW saw a Payless Shoes store on the approach to town, She ended up with two pairs of shoes as it is hard to find shoes for her pixie feet. We then walked into old Basseterre then back to the pier and back on the ship. We then attended a special event in Eden for Elite guests where they had the solo entertainer Georgia perform as well as one of the Acrobats. Up close and personal show for us on front lounge seats. The complementary cocktails were nice too. We had an early reservation at Normandie Restaurant. I do like the ambiance of the MDRs and table linens and service. Tonight I ordered Baked Brie, Escargot, and Beef Tenderloin. All great. DW said her Polenta was really good. We had Queen cake and Ice Creme for dessert, only so-so, but overall a great meal. We had TV and movie time, Edward Scissorhands, in the cabin tonight. It was another great day on the Celebrity Apex.


Thursday, January 19th / at Sea / Day 13 of B2B 

Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. We went to the elite breakfast @ Le Grand Bistro at 9:00 am. and met friends. I had the Ultimate Platter and DW had a Fruit Platter plus Danish, Bloody Mary, and Hot Milk. It was good. afterward, we went to the Club for 10;15 am Trivia with the full team. It was fun as usual. We then did a walkabout and had cabin time. At about 1:00 I had my first Hamburger from the Grill on the Pool deck. It was good. The Trivia team met for Trivia again at 1:45 pm for Time Play Live: Interactive Trivia. You do it online watching the question on screens in the room and answering questions on your phone, Very interesting and good fun. It was movie time in the Afternoon then we went to Eden for Cocktails. The Eden space is very unique and a great place to enjoy complimentary Elite drinks. Tonight we had dinner in the Cyprus Restaurant. I ordered the Taverna Salad (Greek), Hot Melted Cheese Saganaki, the Lemon Dill Chicken Souvlaki entree, and a Lobster Tail with Baked Alaska for dessert. It was all very good. We watched another movie before retiring. I have really enjoyed the Infinite Balcony…it’s a fantastic concept. Our cabin steward has also done a great job as well as keeping us stocked with ice. We like to drink Coca-Cola and snack on Cookies that we pick up on our walkabouts. This is a great ship and it was a fun and interesting day on the Celebrity Apex.


Friday,  January 20th  /  Fun Day at Sea  /  Day 14 of B2B 

Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. We set our clocks back to Eastern Time Zone overnight. I went up to the Ocean View Cafe primarily to get some ham from the Carving Station, I did as well as some bacon and one Eggs Benedict. I had a meat craving. The two of us still went to Le Grand Bistro at 9:00 am. to meet friends. We both ordered the Fruit Plate and had a Danish. I also had a Bloody Mary and Hot Milk. Afterward, DW went swimming and I went to Trivia. We’re getting better, with 15 of 20 correct questions today. We watched another movie in the cabin and then went to the Oceanview Cafe for lunch. I got two nice slices of Turkey from the Carving Station and took them to the Sandwich Station where I had a great turkey Sandwich made for me. It was excellent. We spent some time visiting in the Solarium and watched another movie this afternoon. We went to Eden for cocktails at about 4:45 pm, our new friends came by to say farewell this evening. We had a mini-show as entertainers came by for a sound check while we were there, they were great, we won’t make their 10:15 pm show though. We had dinner at 5:45 in Tuscany Restaurant, the fourth and final restaurant of the main restaurants on board. Unfortunately, the least liked of the four for me as the special items were not really to my liking. I ordered the Asiago Cheese Flan, the Escargot, the Strozzapreti Carbonara entree, and the Dulce de Leech Cream Catalana for dessert. It was good, but I was hoping for more Italian choices. We did a final walkabout then retired to the cabin to pack for tomorrow's debarkation. It was a very relaxing final day on the Celebrity Apex.

 

Saturday, January 21st / Debarkation / Ft. Lauderdale

Smooth seas overnight and I was up very early. I finished packing and we were ready to roll by 7:00 am. We watched from the balcony for the first off the ship and at about 7:20 we saw guests on the gangway. We left the cabin, scored an elevator, and were on deck 5 and heading off the ship straight away. Face recognition got us through Border Control and we were out the door. We found our shuttle bus that was already there (woo hoo) and were second on board. It soon filled and we were off to the lot. There it was luck of the draw as to finding your car. The driver does take off and loads your bags, a nice service, but slow if you are the last car. Still, we were in our car at about 8:10 am. We were off headed north on I-95 taking the cut across Florida route. Less mileage but more cities to slow one down. We stopped at S&L Burgers in Lakeland for lunch then made it home at about 2:25 pm. It was a really easy debarkation from the Apex and Port Canaveral.

 

Ship

I love the Edge class of ship primarily for the Infinite Balconies. The ship still seems new due to constant cleaning and maintenance. Beautiful artwork and statues. My favorite areas are Eden and Rooftop Garden.


Cabins

Week One: we had cabin 7119 a balcony forward on deck 7. It has a unique balcony they classify as partially obscured, but reinforced as it was very far forward with two chairs and a table outside. The usual push button safe, king bed, couch, reading lamps at the bedside, a nice small refrigerator, chair at dresser/desk, and large screen TV. There are two small wardrobes and one set of drawers at the dresser. The bathroom is nice with glass doors at the shower. Week Two: we had cabin 7140 a full infinite balcony located just off the forward elevators. I like this concept with the balcony as a part of the cabin.


Crew

All are well trained and efficient. Our cabin stewards Narayan & Jarot were very good and friendly. The wait staff in the MDRs and Bars were also friendly and did a good job serving us. All crew greeted you as you passed them…very nice.


Dining / Food / Bars / Entertainment

The Apex overall has very good food and was all new to us. Excellent quality and preparation of all. We never ate in a Specialty Restaurant but there were many to choose from. Fantastic to have Tablecloths in the MDRs.  


Highlights of the Cruise

the BREAD

Infinite Balcony 

Cozumel day

Rockumentary Show

St. Thomas day

Main Dining Rooms



Sunday, December 4, 2022

Carnival Celebration B2B Cruise - December 4 & 11, 2022

 

                                                        Carnival Celebration B2B Cruise Review

Just the Facts:
Ship: Carnival Celebration is the 2nd of the new XL Class ship launched in 2022 at 183,500 Tons & 6500 max guest capacity.
Captain:  Andrea Catalani  -  Hotel Director: Pierre  -  Cruise Director: Lee
Ports: Miami. FL - Amber Cove - San Juan - St. Maartin - Miami

This is only the 4th cruise sailing of the new Carnival Celebration and of course my 1st on her. I’m cruising with the Dear Wife (DW) on a B2B (back2back) for 15 days and have several friends and clients on these two cruises.  This is my 108th and 109th Carnival cruises, and 192nd and 193rd cruises overall. We will sail 15 consecutive nights on board the new Carnival Celebration. 

Sunday / December 4th, 2022 Embarkation / Day 1 
I finished packing early Sunday morning and we were off on our drive to Miami at about 6:45 am. We did the I-75 route crossing the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and south to Alligator Alley crossing the Everglades to the Atlantic coast. We drove into downtown Miami to Premier Cruise Parking arriving at about 11:00 am. The parking garage was very busy and by the time we were checked in and parked we had an hour wait to get a shuttle over to the pier. We saw old friends and made new friends in that long shuttle line. We finally arrived at the new Terminal F on cruise ship row at about 12:45 pm. From this point onward, it was a very smooth process. We checked one bag and I rolled mine on as usual. Then entered the Terminal and we did have a priority line for security and guest check-in. The Diamond lounge looked very nice but we proceeded directly through and boarded the ship. We ran into our cruise friends on deck six on the way to the aft elevators and our cabin. We arrived at our aft-facing balcony cabin on deck nine at about 1:20. Very nice to have a NEW cabin…very clean with no stains or wear and tear at all...very different from the recently sailed Carnival Pride. We have a huge balcony directly above the Summer Landing pool. It will be interesting and convenient being above the Summer Landing Area with a Bar, Lounge, entertainment, and BBQ (and secret breakfast) area. We went by our Muster Station F-7 on the way to the new Golden Jubilee Bar. This bar is a celebration of Carnival’s 50th birthday. It is decorated with Carnival ship memorabilia and the menu has old classic cocktails, very interesting. I saw several veteran Cocktail Servers and Friends while enjoying a couple of classic Mojitos. We went back to the cabin to enjoy the sail-away and fortunately, DW’s luggage had arrived so we settled in for the week. Our balcony was a fantastic location for viewing sail away and we also sailed at sunset … very special views of Miami, the other ships, the pool, and more. Enjoyed it. I met friends in our group at the Golden Jubilee (same location as the Brass Magnolia on Mardi Gras) then we had dinner in the MDR, the Festival Restaurant on deck 7. I had Tomato Soup, Sweet & Sour Shrimp, the Pollo Parmigiana Della Cucina (a great chicken farm dish from the Cucina de Capitano Menu) entree, and a fruit plate for dessert. I retired to the cabin and was soon asleep after this long and busy day. An overall fine embarkation day for the Carnival Celebration.
 
Monday, December 5th  /  Fun Day at Sea  /  Day 2 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. Absolutely no noise at all from the Summer Landing area below our cabin location. I went down to Summer Landing for breakfast and was very disappointed…yes they had the (kind of secret) breakfast buffet, but the eggs, both Ham Benedict and Scrambled, were cold. Very cold. I don’t know why as they were warm on the Mardi Gras. They did have the grapefruit that I enjoy and I took some rolls, toast, peanut butter, and juices back up for DW and we enjoyed snacking on the balcony. Beautiful weather too. About mid-morning we decided to tour the ship starting from the top down so went up to the Serenity Deck on deck 18 forward. It was already packed with guests and hot tubs and the bar was very busy. We worked our way down to deck 17 and then the busy Lido deck 16. So far the same as Mardi Gras. We walked by the busy main swimming pools, the Red Frog Tiki Bar, and Blue Iguana, then through the Lido Marketplace all the way to the aft pool area. Our friends were there at a table so we visited with them and people-watched. It was amazing to see the long lines form at Big Chicken, it’s certainly no longer a secret for sure. We broke up at lunchtime. DW and I went to ChiBang for lunch. She ordered a vegetarian Tortilla Bowl and I ordered two Asian Noodle Bowls, a Chicken, and a Beef. Different style noodles and both were good; however, the beef one was exceptional IMHO. I will do this again. We went back up to 16 to continue our tour and actually sampled two items from Street Eats, I wanted to test the Thai food, and DW sampled the Fries. We watched an urban dance-off between guests organized by the DJ and Fun Squad. A lot of participants, but urban music is not my thing, certainly interesting to watch though. Continuing our tour we skipped the passenger decks down to the next stop: deck 8 and DW’s first visit to Summer Landing. Sitting there were our friends just finishing their BBQ lunch from Pig & Anchor. I did enjoy a Farmers Ale and it was great to see Nellie again behind the bar, she was excited to see me from the antics we had at the Pig on Mardi Gras. We finally had to break up our group as we’ll be meeting for cocktails prior and we older guests need a nap. Tour to be continued later. After cabin time we went down to the Golden Jubilee on deck 6 our designated meeting place for cocktail hour. I enjoyed a couple of Harvey Wallbangers as we visited our friends and were joined by other friends. The Captain and senior staff came by as they returned from the Center Stage and the Elegant Night Captain's Toast and greeted us as did many former cruise friends, staff, and acquaintances.  A FUN time. We had six for dinner at Cucina de Capitano this evening. DW ordered Arancini, Caprese Salad, and Pasta Pomodoro and really enjoyed it as it’s not easy to get a proper vegetarian meal. I ordered Arancini, Nona’s Meatball, the wonderful grilled Pork Chop entree, and Tiramisu for dessert. Excellent dinner. FYI-now only one meatball is served on the Nona’s order. It was almost 10:00 pm by the time we finished, so no entertainment tonight, and back to the cabin for us. It was a very enjoyable Sea Day on the new Carnival Celebration.

Tuesday, December 6th / Amber Cove, Dominican Republic / Day 3 

Smooth seas overnight and we slept very well. We were docked in Amber Cove early and it was a beautiful day. We went up to the Lido Marketplace for breakfast at about 9:15 am and it was busy, but the eggs and food were hot. We were invited by good friends to share their private over-the-water cabana in Amber Cove so we went there arriving at about 10:00 am.  (Photo: The over-water Cabanas taken from our aft balcony) This was a new experience for me and the cabana was very nice with WiFi, Loungers, TV, a small Refrigerator, Bar Service, a great view of the ship, and of course the water. Due to a recent storm, the water was a bit murky but I enjoyed swimming. I enjoyed my share of beer as they had Bohemia one of my favorite brands as well as Presidente the popular local beer. Chips, Bottled water, and Coca-cola included. Food available by menu. We had an early return time of 3:30 pm so at 3:00 we were back on board and enjoying a wonderful meal at Big Chicken. It was great. We went then back to the cabin for a nap…and with the beers and a full belly, I slept until 7:00 pm well past our meet friends for dinner time. We had a movie night watching the classics Giant and Casablanca on TCM, and rested. It was a unique day at Amber Cove.

Wednesday, December 7th  /  San Juan, Puerto Rico  /  Day 4 

Calm seas but located far aft there is more rocking movement, enough to create an annoying knocking sound from the sidewall adjacent to the bed. I woke early but had enough rest. I went to the Festivale Restaurant (MDR) for breakfast just after it opened, I had a very nice 2-top table at the aft windows and watched us sail past El Morro Castle and into the harbor. I ordered: Hot Milk, Grapefruit, Danish, 3 eggs Sunny-side up, Bacon, Ham, Hash Browns, and toast. It was very good…fresh and hot. I then got some Croissants for the DW, she misses the complimentary Continental breakfast that was her norm on a cruise. Full sun and a hot day so we decided to stay on board and take advantage of a near-empty ship, it was nice. Also, a good time to do business since our phones and WiFi work in Puerto Rico. A good walk about the ship finishing our tour and stopping at the Lido for a light lunch. We both had a salad from the Salad Bar and I had a Banger & Chorizo from Sea Dogs. Cookies and Passion Fruit Gelato for sweets. It clouded up and a light rain made the balcony more enjoyable in the afternoon. At 5:00 pm we went to the Golden Jubilee for cocktails. The theme of the bar is Carnival’s 50th anniversary and since it wasn’t as busy I had time to view the mementos from previous Carnival Ships. They have Glass from the original Mardi Gras, the actual Tabletops from the Fascination, the original Builders Plate from the original Celebration, and the Carnivale’s original (old fashion) Telegraph from Bridge to the Engine room. They also have exact reproductions of Blue Prints and Mirror Art by Joe Farcus of several original Carnival Ships. and the Chairs are reproductions of the chairs in Carnavale’s Riverboat Lounge. A very interesting theme and is very well done. Some friends went to the feature production at the center stage (I’ll go to the repeat showing) and some to dinner. We chose the Cucina del Capitano as they have a much better variety of vegetarian choices for the DW. Items she enjoys are the Arancini, Caprese Salad, Penne Pomodoro, Parmesan Semolina Gnocchi (side), Eggplant Parmigiana, and four other vegetable sides. Perfect for vegetarians. Tonight I ordered Nona’s Meatball, the Minestrone Soup, the Veal Marsala entree, and the Baba Napoletano for dessert. The Veal was excellent as was the service by our waiter Antolin. After dinner we did a short walkabout before retiring, not as many guests out and about, I assume they were recovering from a big day in San Juan. It was a very enjoyable stay-on-board day on the Celebration.

 

Thursday,  December 8th  /  St. Maarten, NA  /  Day 5  
Smooth seas overnight so no knocking and I slept very well. I woke in the night so updated the blog, the WiFi works very well on this ship. We were docked well before I woke again at about 8:30 am in the port of St. Maartin. Usually up to six ships here, but only the Celebration and three small ships today. I went up to the Blue Iguana for the first time, usually my favorite location for breakfast on Carnival ships. I had Huevos Rancheros with Pico de Gallo, Shredded Cheese, and Salsas. I also had an Arepas and took one back to the cabin for the DW. We went swimming in the Summer Landing Pool just below our balcony. More guests staying on board than yesterday, but friends were already there so we had a lounging area for the morning. Not that many actually in the pool though. Afterward, we had some cabin time before going to Big Chicken for a late lunch. After lunch, we had movie time watching Barefoot Contessa on TCM. I went to the Alchemy Bar for the first time. Of course, I knew all three Alchemists and there were friends from my Breeze travels there too. Nicola made me a nice cocktail and it was Fun. The Christmas Show was on the Center Stage this evening as well as the Amor Cubano production show in the Theater. A lot of Comedy Shows in both the Punchliner and the Limelight Lounge.  I went by Miami Slice and brought a Pizza back to the cabin for a late-night snack/dinner…the pizza was good... MSC quality. It was another Fun stay-on-board the ship day on the Celebration. 
 
Friday, December 9th  /  Fun Day at Sea   /  Day 6 
Rolling seas overnight and I slept well, I was up early so updated this blog, did some business, and paid bills…the WiFi continues to work well. I went down to Summer Landing for breakfast, the eggs were actually warm to hot, a huge change from Monday…in fact a good breakfast and not busy at all. The seas are too rough today for swimming in the pools. Nice sunshine and weather for outdoor activities, but not in the pools. Then busy with the Carnival Jubilee cancelation notices this morning. I had seven client bookings canceled as well as my transatlantic. Memories of the Mardi Gras cancellations. We met our friends for the Diamond Luncheon at 11:45 we had eight people in our group among the other 360 Diamond Guests. I ordered the Pork Belly, the NY Strip Steak x2 (photo), and Tres Leches for dessert. Both Bar & Food Service was very good. We decided to continue the party in the Golden Jubilee afterward and we had quite a party that continued until 8:00 pm. If you stay in one spot long enough everyone you know will eventually come by…I saw many past cruising friends, Diamond friends, and good friends. We even had pizza delivered using the Hub. Great FUN. Of course, I retired as soon as we returned to the cabin. It was a FUN day sailing the Carnival Celebration

Saturday,  December 10th  /  Fun Day at Sea /  Day 7
Rolling seas overnight, but not as bad as Friday. I slept very well and long as I needed to recover from the 8-hour party. We went to the Sea Day Brunch at about 10:30 am. I ordered the Steak & Eggs, Bacon, Hash Browns, Danish, Bloody Mary, Hot Milk, and the Assorted Cookies dessert for later in the cabin. We had a relaxing movie day in the cabin. Those old TCM movies are great and really the only decent TV channel available.  I did an afternoon walkabout picking up our Celebration Pins and gifts (still the Koozies) and made a stop at Big Chicken before it closes at 5:00 pm. I made it to the Time Machine LED show by the Latitudes Bar on deck 6, it was interesting…something different for Carnival. We missed the Production shows this cruise, but plan on it for next cruise. I had cocktails tonight at the 820 Bar with Lidja one of my favorite Alchemists from the Breeze. They have some specialty cocktails (photo), I preferred the Mango 305 over the Key Lime Pie. My friends came by and they had done the same as me eating early on this final night of this cruise. I retired early to purchase my WiFi for the second week, almost forgot, and to preliminary pack as we are changing cabins. It was a good final sea day for the last day of this cruise.

 

Sunday,  December 11th  /  Embarkation Day /  Day 8 of B2B 

Smooth Seas overnight and I slept well. We had been docked a while when I got up at 7:30 am and had a quick breakfast at Big Chicken as debarkation began. I then returned to the cabin to pack as we change cabins today. Fortunately, it’s just down the passageway from the current cabin with the same room steward. Since the guests left early we were able to get moved into the new cabin before our 9:00 am meet time for B2B’s. All of our friends were there and eventually, the 250+ B2B guests received their new cards and had new photos taken. At about 10:00 am we were off to Border control and the Facial Recognition system. All was well with our group and we were back on board before 11:00 am. We have coupons for the Welcome Cocktail and Photos so straight back to the new cabin. We quickly changed for the Summer Landing Pool hoping to get pool calisthenics in before guests arrived. We ended up in the Hot Tub…much warmer! I had Pig & Anchor BBQ for lunch, and DW had the Macaroni & Cheese with Pretzel roll. The BBQ was quite good, I didn’t have any last week. It really got busy so we returned to the cabin to unpack and set up for the next 8 days. We have a suite, really just a larger & longer cabin with a sitting area and two big screen Televisions. The bathroom is larger too. It will do. We met the group for cocktails in Golden Jubilee then had dinner in Cucina del Capitano. I had the Veal Marsala again as well as Arancini, Nonas Meatball, Minestrone Soup, and Tiramisu for dessert. We ate a bit early so that the group could see more shows on this cruise. They had a variety of Preview scenes at Center Stage and Amor Cubano in the Theater. A lot of music in various venues and Comedy in Limelight and in the Punchliner. A busy day for guests. It was a busy day for us as well on the Carnival Celebration.

 

Monday,  December 12th  /  Fun Day at Sea /  Day 9 of B2B 

Very smooth seas overnight and I slept well. A lazy cabin morning and I had fruit for breakfast. We had TCM movie time, Cool Hand Luke and I did some Monday morning business until lunch. We went to ChiBang for Noodle Bowls, not as much meat in the Beef Bowl as last week, but I did order two so it was fine…easy too. I did a walkabout, does seem as many guests outdoors as last week, perhaps a bit cooler. Along deck 8 seems to be the area most overlooked for both sunbathing and activities. Balcony time in the afternoon until we met our friends at Golden Jubilee for cocktails. Fun time...it's great to have good friends on board. We returned to ChiBang for dinner as it’s a completely different menu and we have not eaten there for dinner as yet. I ordered a lot and all of it was very good to excellent: Egg Drop Soup, Slow-Braised Pork Belly (much better than the Diamond Luncheon), Spring Rolls, Pot Stickers, the Kung Pao Chicken entree, Hakka Noodles, and Tres Leches for dessert. Also a very nice Lycée Martini...my favorite at a Chinese venue.  We all split up for Casino, Center Stage feature show, or Cabin. The DW and I retired, and we are enjoying our suite very much. It was a restful sea day onboard the Carnival Celebration.

 

Tuesday,  December 13th  /  Grand Turk  /  Day 10 of B2B 

Slight rolling of seas just enough to rock one to sleep.  We slept late and I again had Fruit for breakfast.  Our friends are going to Jack’s Shack today. We are not going off the ship, we were just in Grand Turk a few weeks ago, and we enjoy the ship with fewer guests onboard.  I did a nice walkabout the ship then did some work online. The beaches and water here are beautiful, you can see a lot of the island from the upper decks.  We watched some classic black&white TCM movies with the Falcon, a Detective.  We enjoyed them.  For lunch we went to the Deco Deli, DW had Swiss Cheese on Rye bread (off menu), I had the #5-Reuben (classic) and a #9-Pan Con Lichon (Pork, onion, mojo sauce on Cuban Bread).  We ate outside on deck 8, the under-utilized deck I have mentioned. Then sat at the Summer Landing pool on deck 8 enjoying the perfect weather an views of the beach…looks like a lot of people at Jack’s Shack, but a lot of new competition along the beach.  We had an early dinner before Big Chicken closed for the evening.  Then we sat outside on our balcony to watch the sunset and our brief sail-away.  We only backed from the dock and anchored just off the beach for hours.  We are close to our next port so perhaps the Captain wanted the protected waters for the big Circus Production show with aerial performances tonight, but who knows?  Just seems very odd…I’ve never experienced it here.  It was an easy relaxing day on the Carnival Celebration.

Wednesday,  December 14th  /  Amber Cove, Dominican Republic  /  Day 11 of B2B 
Smooth seas overnight, just enough action to rock you asleep. We slept late as we aren’t getting off the ship today. Fruit again for breakfast as I’m trying to limit some calories and still enjoy some unique food onboard. We did a walkabout the ship, the beaches and water are not as pretty as Grand Turk yesterday. I did some work from bed this morning and we have shade on the balcony so balcony time as well. I had my Spa day today getting a very nice pedicure and massage…I’m getting spoiled…my previous one was on the Carnival Pride. Afterward, I went for my first Guy’s Burger, it was busy as guests were already returning from Amber Cove, as we do leave early. My hamburgers were great as were the fries. We sailed at 3:50 pm and we watched from the balcony, the Spirit sailed just after we did. We sailed around the island and we could see Puerto Plata and two NCL ships docked there, It was a clear day and I could see the huge Christ Statue on top of the mountain. You have to know where to look. A beautiful sunset sail from
Hispaniola (photo).  We went to the Lido Marketplace for the first time for dinner. The selections were very good, I had Roast Beef from the Carving Station and two small NY Strip steaks plus side dishes. It was very good. The DW was able to find Salad and Rice for herself. We found a unique dessert, hard to describe, similar to a warm bread pudding but made from cereal with a sweet topping side. It was excellent. Lots of good entertainment tonight, but after that nice meal we decided to have a movie night. We watched the classic The More the Merrier (1943), and the comedy Out of the Blue (1947). I had never seen the 2nd and it was hilarious. We are enjoying TCM. It was another easy relaxing day on the Carnival Celebration. 

Thursday,  December 15th  /  San Juan, Puerto Rico  /  Day 12 of B2B 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. We were entering the harbor as we woke this morning. We had a nice breakfast at Blue Iguana, I had my usual and the DW had a freshly Scrambled egg on a tortilla with queso. We left the ship at about 10:00 am for our day in OSJ (Old San Juan). We went along the harbor front and noticed them setting up for the Holiday Festival before we began our walk uphill. Our first stop was Marshall’s, I waited in the Park outside the main entry. (seems I recall doing that many times when I take friends on the OSJ tour. There are a lot of locals in the tourist areas, I suppose because of the Festival. The next stop was for a Diet Coke, Water, and a local Magnum beer on Fortaliza street. Visited a few shops before ouR stop at Catedral Basilica Menor de San Juan Bautista. We spent some time here as usual and I always visit Ponce DeLeon’s memorial located inside the Church. We walked down to the Puerta de San Juan (1635), the old iconic gate through the fortified walls. Now at sea level, we walked around the outer walls to Paseo de la Princesa, the 1853 urban European-style promenade. I love the fountain here, especially at night. Next was the Festival grounds and we saw the early vendors and displays. We purchased some great homemade cookies. When we got back to the Harbor Walkway we stopped at La Casita de Rones, the well-known small Restaurant on the Harbor. I’ve never been able to get in (long wait times) but with the attractive lady with me, we were able to score two seats at the Bar. DW had a frozen Margarita and I had the local Pina Colada. Very nice. The last stop was at Walgreens…we picked up toiletries, snacks, and Coca-cola. We were back on the ship by 4:00ish. We sat on the balcony and enjoyed the Regal Princess’ sail away. I love the theme of The Love Boat they play on the ship horns as they sail. Once they sailed we had a great cool breeze on our balcony. Yea! We enjoyed dinner in the Marketplace we went again this night. I had Ham from the Carving Station (excellent), Two small steaks, Broccoli, Breaded Cauliflower, and Rice…the DW had the Vegetables, Rice, and Salad. It was very good. For dessert, I had Bread Pudding. We retired to the cabin after getting in our 8000 steps today. It was a fine day in OSJ and the ship.

Friday, December 16th / St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands / Day 13 of B2B

Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. We had been docked well before I woke at about 8:00 am. We went to the Blue Iguana again for breakfast…it was very good. We are the only ship docked here today. We left the ship at about 10:30 am and took a taxi into Charlotte Amalie. We really enjoyed the nice shops and the old historical area of the old port. We met the owner of the Side Street Pub which is located at Creque Alley in the old town. We had a great discussion about the significance of Creeque Alley to Rock Music history specifically the Mamas & Papas. It was here in a bar owned by Hugh Duffy that the band members worked while honing their music…including writing California Dreaming. I asked him how many Pub customers are even aware of this and his answer was: “98% have no clue”. My personal favorite Momas & Popas song is the one named Creeque Alley about the formation of the group and the transition from Folk music to Rock. We did some more shopping and then returned to Side Street for refreshments and snacks. Most of the seating is outdoors and very pleasant with a sea breeze. We ordered a Bushwacker+, CocaCola, Water, and Chips and Dips including Pico de Gallo, Salsa, Frijoles, and Queso Cheese…all was very good. We met new friends as well. We taxied back at about 2:50 pm as we have a 4:00 pm sail time. We met our friends in the Heroes Bar of Summer Landing upon reboarding. Time for a couple of Farmers Ales until sail away. Thanks, Mike. We sat on the balcony for sunset as we left the Virgin Islands behind us. We ate at the Lido Marketplace again tonight as it really is best for DW and her vegetarian needs. I also enjoyed it, tonight I had Pork Shoulder from the Carving Station, Breaded Chicken Breast, two BBQ Ribs, Soup, Baked Potato, Broccoli, and Bread Pudding for dessert. It was great. It was a super FUN day in St. Thomas and on the Carnival Celebration.

 

Saturday,  December 17th  /  Fun Day at Sea  /  Day 14 of B2B 

Smooth seas overnight and I slept well waking at about 10:00 am. I had a banana for breakfast from our fruit bowl to ‘hold me’ until the Diamond Luncheon at noon. A beautiful day and guests are enjoying the outer decks today. I met our friends at about 11:45 and we got a nice six-top table in the prime location for the Cruise Director and Captain’s comments. The menu was the same and I again had two NY Strip Steaks as one of my friends unknown to me ordered an extra for me, a running joke as I usually have the DW’s steak but she didn’t attend. The Steak was actually very good as were the small Salad, and Fruit plate. The tall (her mother was Montenegrin) and attractive Alexandria really kept us in the cocktails too. Not as many Diamond guests as last week, maybe 300. We again stopped in the Golden Jubilee to finish our cocktails but for perhaps an hour+ not the rest of the day as the last cruise. It was nap time when I returned to the cabin. At about 7:00 pm we went to the Lido Marketplace for the DW’s Vegetarian meal. I had a light dinner: Prime Rib from the Carving Station with Horseradish and Bread Pudding for dessert. I retired early as I was still happy from the complementary cocktails from the Luncheon. It was an easy restful and needed sea day on the Carnival Celebration.

Sunday,  December 18th  /  Fun Day at Sea  /  Day 15 of B2B 

Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. I went down one deck to Pig & Anchor for a light breakfast, the eggs were hot, and I brought back Croissants and Grapefruit to eat on the shady balcony this morning. We did a morning walkabout this morning and got our Diamond free-play chips turning them into $60 Casino chips at the Roulette Wheel. I also cashed out my chips for the year $140, low compared to last year, but on our last eight Carnival Cruises, we received $25 in cash and not chips. I also got a nice photo of the two senior Alchemists at the Alchemy Bar to update the Alchemy Bar Facebook page (photo). We ended up on Lido Deck at about 12:30 pm so I had my last Big Chicken of the cruise. DW had a salad and picked up items for an express breakfast in the morning when we have an early debarkation time. DW began packing and we watched a movie before meeting our friends for our final cocktail hour in Golden Jubilee. We had dinner tonight in Cucina del Capitano, I had the same meal as the previous visit: Arancini, Nona’s Meatball, the Minestrone Soup, the Veal Marsala entree, and the Tiramisu for dessert. It was very good. After dinner, the DW returned to the cabin to pack and I used my complimentary Diamond event cocktail at Latitudes. Ana prepared a very nice Caipirinha for me. I then went to the Piano Bar to listen to a set by Eden and get a photo with Nadia. It was rather quiet on the ship by 10:00 pm … everyone was busy packing I guess and that’s what I did as well. It was a very nice final day on the Carnival Celebration.

 

Monday, December 19th / Miami Debarkation 

I was up by 5:00 am as we sailed past Miami Beach and into Miami’s famous cruise row before dawn in Miami (photo). I had time to finalize packing and have breakfast before meeting the Diamond priority walk-off at 7:00 am. We actually were off before 7:15 am so waiting for the shuttle to Premier Parking for half an hour. But by 8:15 am we were heading down the road arriving at the Villa at about 12:45 pm. Easy Peasy.  


Ship

The newest ship in the fleet with that new ship smell, so to speak. The XL class is a unique and great improvement for Carnival. The same basic design as the Mardi Gras with an extra staircase and new Zones and Bars.  


Cabins

Week One: we had cabin 9507 an aft-facing balcony on deck 9. It has a huge balcony, but only two chairs and a table outside. The usual push button safe, queen bed, couch, two shelves, reading lamps at the bedside, a nice small refrigerator, bench at dresser/desk, and large screen TV. There are two large wardrobes and one set of drawers at the dresser. The bathroom is small and compact, but glass doors at the shower. Week Two: we had cabin 9459 a suite located just off the aft elevators and the same Cabin Steward. The balcony was not as large, but the cabin was much larger. The usual push button safe, queen bed, two shelves, reading lamps at the bedside, a nice small refrigerator, chair at dresser/desk, and two large screen TVs. There are two large lighted wardrobes and one set of drawers at the dresser. The bathroom was much larger with sliding glass doors at the larger shower…also premium toiletries. The best is the separate sitting area with a couch and vanity. Very nice.


Crew

Loved seeing all the veteran Alchemists on board. Our cabin steward Joven was very good and friendly. The wait staff in the MDR and specialty restaurants were also friendly and did a good job serving us. They usually do have the best crew members on the new flagship.


Dining / Food / Bars / Entertainment

The MDR food is the long-time standard Carnival menu, they have added 50th birthday throw-back classic dishes. The Specialty Restaurants are numerous and very good. My favorites were Big Chicken and Cucina de Capitano.

 

 

It was a FUN cruise on the new Carnival Celebration